Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Blue Star Motorcycles opens second shop on Main Street

Posted By on Tue, Aug 4, 2009 at 3:36 PM

Woody, Jon, Steve and Ross
  • Woody, Jon, Steve and Ross


We welcomed the January opening of Blue Star Motorcycles at 5508 Troost Avenue with the blog headline, "Bikers will save Troost." Overly optimistic? Perhaps. Luckily, Ross Thompson, one of the shop's three co-owners, came to the business a bit more jaded.

"Revitalizing a neighborhood is a process," Thompson says. "We knew that having our business on Troost would help Troost. It's not going to hurt Troost. But it's not like it's going to save the neighborhood." 

That realism is partly why Thompson and co-owners Woody McGrain and Steve Browning didn't call it quits after a disgruntled customer pulled out a gun and cocked it in Thompson's face in May. The customer was pissed that work on his 24-year-old ATV had gone into its third week. Thompson was having trouble finding parts. After a verbal confrontation with the customer, Thompson decided the guy needed to take the ATV elsewhere. The dude returned to the shop brandishing a gun and threatening to kill Thompson. Neighbors at the auto mechanic shop across the street saw the scene and called 9-1-1. 

"I didn't really realize what Troost was going to bring," Thompson says.

At the time of that incident, the Blue Star owners had already planned on opening a second shop to "capture the elusive, affluent motorcycle enthusiasts who weren't coming up to the Troost store," Thompson says. "We tried to position ourselves where the more affluent riders would stop in and if they liked our ideas, would go with us, since there's really not another shop in town that is going to dive right into major machining and fabrication projects."

click to enlarge bluestarbike.JPG

While he has no intention of closing the Troost shop, the gun incident made finding a second location a priority of Thompson's, to say the least. He and his partners looked at several pieces of real estate before deciding on a storefront at 3701 Main Street. (The African Market used to take up both 3701 Main and the space next door, but now occupies just the one storefront.)

The landlord of the space on Main was skeptical about leasing it to the shop owners until he took a tour of the Troost location and saw the demand for motorcycle repair -- that shop is wall-to-wall with bikes.

The plan now is to serve basic mechanical needs at the Troost location: parts, accessories and service. The Main Street shop will also provide those things but will focus on engine building, suspension service, custom fabrication and machining.

The custom work is something the shop prides itself on, Thompson says. "We focus on doing custom stuff

that's clean and tasteful and well-executed. There's custom work, and then

there's custom work done in a technically-superior way." Instead of adding gaudy chrome details, for example Thompson and his crew might replace stock parts with high performance pieces. "If there's a set of brake rudders you really

want on your bike but that don't fit on your bike, we'll machine them to

fit," he says.

And despite what the firearm-wielding ATV rider might say, quick turnaround is a priority at Blue Star. The wait time is "one of our biggest

issues with other shops," Thompson says. "It's not so much that we get it done fast, but that we get it done

as fast as it can be done."

The other mechanics run the Troost shop most of the time, though Thompson will still work there when it's necessary. "I think that neighborhood definitely needs that bike shop," he says. "If I was more brazen I'd go

further east and open another one." He laughs. "But I'm not that brave."  

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